Japan and South Korea Agree to Early Settlement of War Labor Issue

The foreign ministers of Japan and South Korea reached an agreement on Monday to seek an early settlement of a dispute over the issue of compensation demands from South Koreans about wartime labor that has strained bilateral relations.

Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi and his South Korean Prime Minister Park Jin reached an agreement in a meeting in Tokyo on Monday, their first formal meeting since South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol’s inauguration on May 10.

Park told Hayashi he would work to produce “desirable solutions” before liquidating Japanese corporate assets in South Korea that plaintiffs in labor lawsuits have seized.

Hayashi highlighted the importance for Japan and South Korea in addressing pending issues, including the dispute over former civilian workers from the Korean Peninsula.

Japan maintained that issues relating to its 1910-1945 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula, including the issue of compensation for requisitioned Korean workers and the comfort women, were settled “completely and finally” under a bilateral agreement signed in 1965.

“It is necessary to develop Japan-South Korea relations based on the foundation of friendship and cooperation the two countries have built since the normalization of our diplomatic relations in 1965,” Hayashi told Park.

Tokyo has urged Seoul to avoid liquidating assets seized from the companies, threatening consequences to their bilateral relationship.

South Korea’s top court will issue a ruling on the envisioned liquidation in August or September.

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